It’s NaNoWriMo time!
Guess what? This will actually be my first ever time participating in the November writefest that is NaNoWriMo.
For those who don’t know what that is, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Each November, writers/aspiring writers sign up to the NaNoWriMo website and undertake to try to put out at least 50,000 words of their novel before the month is up. It’s become a great motivational tool for writers as well as a resource of inspiration and support for the community. Plus, it’s been known to have churned out quite a few published author’s debut novels too!
I’ve never done the NaNoWriMo experience before – for some reason whenever November rolls around I’ve always got other stuff on my plate or I’m in editing mode, not actually writing mode. But not 2016. 2016 is the year I join up!
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the first week has turned out pretty well – or at least better than I expected! Along the way, I also thought I’d post weekly recaps of my first eve NaNoWrimo experience as I go along. And below is first week’s recap!
Monday, 31 October:
Ever the Queen of Procrastination, I do a last minute sign-up to NaNoWriMo right on the day before it’s due to begin.
Which story? I’ve been umm-ing and uhh-ing about which story I should work on for the month because I’ve got a few on the go at the moment. There’s one I’ve been kind of leaning toward, but the first draft on that one is almost finished so I go with the second, of which I’ve written up to just under 20,000 words. I won’t be including those first 20,000 words toward my NaNoWriMo count. It works out, because according to publishing industry word counts, an ideal word count is between 70,000-10,000. For more on word count, check out the Swivet here. So NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 plus my first 20,000 will see me jump into a nice category, word count wise.
Unfortunately, I’m not actually feeling super passionate about my chosen WIP (work-in-progress). I worked on it a little a month or two ago (hence those first 20,000 words), but hit a few roadblocks in terms of plot and story background, and my enthusiasm has since waned as my writer’s block increased. Is this actually going to turn into a good story I can get excited about? I’m not too sure.
But I’ll commit to it and see how I go. With a sigh, I get to work on a summary of the story for my NaNoWriMo account. Ugh, if even this feels like a chore to me, I don’t want to know what the rest of the month’s going to be like. I dash off a few lines as a draft summary – but oh holy goodness, to my utter surprise, what began as a few throwaway sentences suddenly pulls the whole story together – and suddenly I realise I know exactly what this story is all about.
Nice one, NaNoWriMo! The month hasn’t even begun and you’re already helping me out of my writer’s block!
Enthusiasm bubbles to the fore. What was only going to be a few minutes spent working on my NaNoWriMo sign-up turns into a couple of hours of writing and furious outlining of scenes. I don’t get to bed until it’s pretty late and I can’t sleep because I’m still buzzing – but I don’t care, I’ve got my story and I can’t wait to write it!!
Tuesday, November 1st:
First day of NaNoWriMo! It begins! Thanks to last night’s eureka moment, I power up the laptop with much excitement and throw myself down on the sofa to get to work.
Okay, actually first I check out a few trailers and YouTube videos and a couple of my favourite blogs. Then I get to work.
I work steadily for a couple of hours with plenty of short breaks in between to eat yogurt (mm, Chobani mango yogurt, my new fave), watch a few more videos and surf the net in between. I don’t think I’ve actually got much done but when I check my word count, I’m pleasantly surprised. 2661 words! Not bad at all. I register the word count on my NaNoWriMo account, then it’s time to get to bed. But actually, I fart around a little more checking out NaNoWriMo forums and how many writing buddies I’ve got (a grand total of two!). I want more friends. I add a few more writing buddies on, then go to bed still feeling buzzed. Hey, this NaNoWriMo thing ain’t so bad after all…
Wednesday, 2nd November:
Came home from work all gung-ho and ready to write, but first I decide to sit in front of the couch and watch a little TV to decompress and transition out of work mode. Hmm, what’s on? Conan the Barbarian, staring Jason Momoa, that’s what. I text my workmate who is a massive Momoa fan to let her know. I’ll just watch a little bit of it, just to check out Momoa in full Barbarian gear. But they’re taking way too long with the backstory on young Conan. Bring me Momoa already. I flip channels instead.
Men in leather workout gear in a Roman Coliseum-type stadium – hello! What’s this, some poor man’s version of Gladiator? Why, it’s Jon Snow in Pompeii! Talk about a Mother of Dragons night. I switch back and forth between Jon Snow and Conan. Snow is supposed to look all moody and manly, but instead he looks like he’s about to cry all the time and Conan’s taking way too long to grow up so I finally switch off the TV and start writing.
I’m finding it a little harder to get into writing mode today. Uh-oh, that’s not good. I’ve read that writers start NaNoWriMo all excited and bursting with positivity beans, then the excitement peters out around day 3-4 and the word count tapers off majorly. I’m only in day two – that’s not good! But I force myself to write until I’ve got in a couple of scenes, then I get back to the TV. Finally, Conan’s grown up. But he’s nowhere near Kal Drogo mode and there’s just way too much barbarian cheesiness so reluctantly I turn off the TV again. I check my word count before I go to bed. 2453 words. Not as good as the first day, but still pretty all right considering my new burst of procrastination!
Yesterday, according to my stats, if I keep this up I’ll be done by 20 November. Today it’s 21st November! I must do better! Now that I’m keeping track of numbers, my competitive streak is well and truly awake. Uh-oh. I don’t like my competitive streak. She’s a bit of a monster and even I’m terrified of her.
Before I go to bed, I check the NaNoWriMo forums again. I feel slightly uneasy that we all have to upload our novels at the end of the month to confirm our word count. What if someone checks mine and goes, “What the hell is this? You call this is a first draft? My five-year-old could write a better story than that! Imposter!” I feel the urge to start editing and making my first draft super perfect for when I hand it up to teacher. But, no, wait. This is what first drafts are for. It’s all about putting pen to paper and getting the bare bones of the story down. It doesn’t matter how messy it is, just get the words down and you can edit in later drafts.
Thursday, 3rd November:
I am determined not to get bogged down by trash TV tonight. So first thing I do is…yeah, turn on the TV. I told you, it’s all about decompressing! Nothing catches my eye, though, so reluctantly I switch off and power up the laptop. Knowing I’ve got to account publicly for my word count plus that competitive streak is a great motivator. I – must – not – give – up! So I put my head down and start tapping away. It’s all crap, nothing I would ever show to anyone, but at least I’m going somewhere. My characters are going somewhere.
At the end of my writing session, I’m still nowhere near where I was hoping to be by now, considering all the outlining I’ve done. My characters are still in the desert and I want them to be in the mountains by now, damnit. But when I check my word count, I’m pleasantly surprised to find out how many words I’ve actually written. 2509 words. Slightly better than yesterday, still not as good as the high of the first day. But passable. It’s passable.
Side tangent: Considering the number of rewrites I do, I really don’t know how they did it back in the day when there were no laptops, no nice delete key, no way to go back and forth, erasing and adding words on your nice clean computer screen. I shudder to think what the draft sessions were like for War and Peace. Or did Leo Tolstoy turn out a perfect first draft on the very first try? I check on Wikipedia and it says he did at least seven rewrites for a later edition War and Peace. Jayzus, seven rewrites of War and Peace without a laptop. That man deserved a literary award just for that alone.
Friday, 4th November:
I have a few extra hours to work on my draft today so I’m determined to make the most of it. As usual, it takes a while for me to get going – I procrastinate a little online, watching new Royal Opera House ballet videos (a favourite thing of mine to do while writing), including a little of the rehearsal of Wayne McGregor’s Multiverse (so cool). At first, I work abysmally slow – two paragraphs, then I’m checking Twitter, another half a paragraph, then I’m texting a friend, one more paragraph and I’m thinking about having more Chobani yogurt.
I continue in this vein for the next couple of hours. Mm, yogurt.
Then finally, in the last 40 minutes or so, I finally buckle down and really get going. I’m tapping away furiously, not even clock-watching, not even breaking off to check social media. This scene is crap, absolutely crap, and I’m going to need to flesh out a lot more details here so it all makes sense, but at least I’m getting stuff done! Aaaaand – time’s up and I’ve actually got quite a few pages down so yay!
I check my word count and find that I’ve written 3239 words. Yassss!
When I add this to my NaNoWriMo stats, I am astounded to find I have actually hit the 10,000 word mark! No way! At first I’m suspicious. Surely not? This must be a miscalculation. I double-check and it’s right! I give myself a mental high five and a mental pat on the back. Then I wince because I’ve mentally twisted my back.
Weekend, 5th and 6th November:
A prolonged champagne lunch that went way past lunchtime plus the requisite hangover recovery the following day equals a grand total of 0 words done. Yup, you read that write. ZERO.
But I’m cool with that. For the first week, I managed to hit the 10,000 word mark and I think that’s pretty all right! Plus, when I wasn’t hydrating and eating lots of carbs on Sunday, I was lying on the sofa watching movies and reading, and in the process I’ve come up with a few more great ideas for my story. I can’t wait to incorporate them in come Monday!
Total word count for first week of NaNoWrimo: 10,862 words.
So overall how did my first ever week go?
It’s great and I’m really loving it. Keeping track of my word count keeps me accountable and also motivated (thanks, competitive streak!). In fact, I feel like every month should be NaNoWriMo month!
Having said that, I’m not sure, exactly how well this would all have worked out if I hadn’t already had this story brewing in the back of my head for a few months plus an outline of scenes ready to go. It’s also still early days so I’ll see how enthusiastic and gung-ho I remain by the second, third or fourth week! Until then though, I’m feeling pretty good about this.
One thing NaNoWriMo has really brought home to me (yet again) is the fact that first drafts are meant to be messy. The whole point is to just get the words out of your head and down on paper (or laptop screen). No matter if the words are terribly garbled and there’s mad grammar and spelling errors all over the place and there’s no way you’d ever show this to anyone because gawd it is so cringeworthy and awful and not even worthy of a seventh grade school report. But the whole point is to just get it down. Then we’ll talk about editing and revision which is an entirely new kind of hell. But first – get it down.
Also, I’ve been talking about my competitive streak and how well that’s going for me, but I can also see how Nanowrimo can backfire and burn because you know everyone’s going to be out there comparing each other’s word counts. And if your word count isn’t as high as others, you might start to experience feelings of doubt and insecurity. It’s like the writer’s version of Facebook where you fall into the trap of the comparison game. Right now, my word count is pretty good but even I’m checking myself against others and going “hmprh!” if they’ve got a higher word count or experiencing a smug glow if it’s lower. But, really, we’re all going to have days where more words are written than others. And we’re going to have other days where zero words will be written. But the important thing is not to beat yourself up over it and to know that there is always a new day tomorrow. And that even two words written on one day is better than none!
So that’s me for the first week of NaNoWriMo. And now it’s on to the second week. I’ll check in again at the end of it to let you know how I’m going. In the meantime, sending lots of good luck and positive, productive vibes to my fellow NaNoWriMo writers out there!